E-Tolling – The Basics for Rental Cars

In many areas of the USA, electronic tolling, or e-tolling, is becoming mandatory on toll roads. Rental cars can use e-tolling, here we tell you how and show you the approximate costs. 

E-Tolling using Toll-By-Plate

Alamo and National have signed up to ‘Toll-by-Plate’. This simple system will take a photo of your number plate as you travel through the e-toll lane. Different areas have different systems to administer e-tolls, such as Sun Pass (Florida) FasTrak (California) or EZ Pass (the North-East). The systems match your number plate to your reservation and bills your card.

E-Tolling using a Transponder

Avis, Budget, Dollar and Thrifty and Hertz rental cars carry an transponder device on or near the wind-shield to communicate directly with the e-toll. Your credit card is billed directly. This is fine if you are happy to use the system – but – if you don’t want to use the system and want to pay all your tolls by cash (or use your own portable transponder) then you must ensure that you turn off the rental company’s transponder. Transponder covers in rental cars mean turning the transponder off is really easy.  The cover is attached to the wind-shield with hook and loop, so can also be removed and stored in the glove compartment for a ‘belt and braces’ approach.

Charges for E-Tolling in Rental Cars

Tolls take a few days to reach your account so you may continue to be billed after return of the car, but that is normal.  There is an administration charge for this facility and this does vary according to which supplier you have chosen. These are the current rates in Florida, other states may vary:

  • Alamo/National – $19.75 per rental month,or $3.95 per rental day, plus your tolls.
  • Budget/Avis – $19.75 per rental month, or $3.95 per rental day, plus your tolls.
  • Dollar/Thrifty
    • (Florida) – $52.49 per rental week or $10.95 per rental day, includes your tolls.
    • (Denver E470) – $62.49 per rental week or $12.49 per rental day, includes your tolls.
    • (Golden Gate Bridge) – $59.99 per rental week or $11.99 per rental day, includes your tolls.
  • Hertz – $24.75 per rental contract, or $4.95 per rental day, plus you tolls.

Please remember that local taxes and fees apply to all transactions.

Can I still pay with cash?

You don’t have to use E-tolling in areas where it it is not yet mandatory – you can still pay by cash. But, if you have been through an E-toll once and activated the facility to your rental, then you will still have to pay the facility charge plus that toll even if you pay by cash for all the others. When you pay with cash, please obtain a receipt as proof of payment. Also ensure you switch your transponder off. Transponders can trigger the toll before you pull up to pay by cash.

If you use cash to pay for tolls, obtain a receipt to keep in case of disputes later!

Location Specific Information

To read more about specific locations please follow the appropriate link below:

  • The SunPass system in Florida please see this page.
  • Denver E470 System please see this page
  • Specific instructions for rental cars using the Golden Gate Bridge please see this page.
  • FasTrak in California please see this page.
  • Toronto in Canada is also a Cashless Toll Highway area.

E-tolling lets you drive to your destination the easiest way, without constantly slowing down to pay tolls.  However, it is worth noting that not all e-toll systems are compatible. For instance the SunPass system in Florida is currently only compatible with North Carolina’s Quick Pass System.  Although further ‘interoperability’ with other states is being worked upon, as yet the systems are not compatible.  If you are considering a road-trip through many states but want to be able to use toll roads be sure to discuss usage with your supplier when you collect the car.

Other points to consider

Regular travellers may consider obtaining a transponder of their own.  You can purchase a portable unit from the toll road service plaza. Publix supermarket in Florida sells portable Sun Pass transponders for $25. After purchased, set up an online account.  Link the account to a credit card for top-ups and then register your rental car to the account with the exact times and dates that you have the car. This way, if any toll goes astray (and gets billed by the rental company) you can show proof that the car was registered to your account at the time. If you like to tour around and prefer to pay to use the relatively quieter toll roads, then this may well be the option to consider.

A tip is to continue to pay cash for tolls on the journey from the airport to your accommodation to make sure you don’t incur any charges before you have a chance to pair your rental car to your Transponder account.

There are often toll exit booths which are dual purpose cash/e-toll.  If you have a transponder in the car this may automatically activate, even if you pay by cash and we have received a few reports from clients who have been caught out this way. Please remember, if you are in any doubt, ask for a car with a transponder that can be turned off.

Prices last updated: 16 May 2018

15 thoughts on “E-Tolling – The Basics for Rental Cars

  1. AirportsMadeSimple

    Hi TripWheels! Wanted to let you know I’m nominating you for the Versatile Blogger Award. It will go live today in about two hours. You’ve got some GREAT info on this site!

  2. Elle Hubbard

    This article was updated on 14/08/12 to include e-tolling rates for Sixt rent a car, as supplied to me by Sixt rent a car in Miami. Please be sure you are fully aware of the e-tolling program and costs when you are signing your paperwork!

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